“On October 13, 1944, a North Carolina citizen was brought before a judge in traffic court for having parked his car immediately in front of a sign that read ‘No Stoping’…. The defendant argued that the missing letter in the sign meant that he had not violated any law. Brandishing a Webster’s dictionary, he noted that ‘stoping’ technically means ‘extracting ore from a stope, or, loosely, underground.’
” ‘Your honor,’ said the man, ‘I am a law-abiding citizen, and I did not extract any ore from the area of the sign.’ The judge…let him off….”
— From “Just My Typo: From ‘Sinning with the Choir’ to ‘the Untied States’ “ by Drummond Moir (2014)
The absence of attribution aroused skepticism, but I found a corroborative contemporary account in the Burlington Daily Times News. The court was in Durham, and the imaginative defendant was A. E. Floyd.
Lucky Strike [since appearing prominently in “Mad Men”]
THEN Once this best-selling brand in the United States (and the cigarette of choice for Don Johnson’s character on “Miami Vice”) was selling 23 billion cigarettes a year.
NOW Its seemingly omnipresent place in Don Draper’s hands may not be the direct cause, but sales have grown by 35 percent since 2007. Even Don’s public cri de coeur against ever representing tobacco companies again, published in a letter to The New York Times after Lucky Strike left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in Season 4, hasn’t put much of a dent in sales.
— From “A Lucky Strike, Indeed: ‘Mad Men’ Enters Its Final Season in an Altered World” by Lorne Manly in the New York Times (April 11)
“A popularly circulated saying about warehouse people was that ‘they work like hell, drink like hell, and loaf like hell.’ But the long months of loafing came to an end when Durham’s warehouse district woke up and the auction season began.
” ‘During these busy days,’ [Leonard] Rapport observed [circa 1940], ‘shooting galleries, medicine shows, sidewalk preachers, string bands, 10¢ photographers, beggars, and flimflammers have established themselves along Rigsbee Avenue or on its cross streets.’
“Rapport vividly described the intensity of the warehouse district at night: ‘All during the night — warm for November — the streets are alive with men. The cafes are filled. Shooting galleries and fruit stands stay open until one and two or later. There is a movement of men walking, riding; and all-night stirring; slow talk, laughter, lights, shouts of drunks, music of guitars, radios, shouting of doormen, the rumble of a heavy truck on the wooden drive.’ ”
— From “Reasons to Talk About Tobacco” by Pete Daniel in the Journal of American History (December 2009)
Leonard Rapport, a Durham native and UNC graduate (’35), joined the Federal Writers’ Project to collect the life stories of tobacco warehouse workers. As this passage suggests, his eye for the scene was remarkable.
Rapport left his papers to the Southern Historical Collection, where they are being processed.
“Inside or outside his [Durham] photo studio, Hugh Mangum created an atmosphere — respectful and often playful — in which hundreds of men, women and children opened themselves. Though the late-19th-century American South in which he worked was marked by disenfranchisement, segregation and inequality — between black and white, men and women, rich and poor — Mr. Mangum, who was white, portrayed all of them with candor, humor, confidence and dignity….
“The images that remain — about 700 glass plate negatives preserved in Duke University’s Rubenstein Library — were salvaged from the tobacco pack house on the Mangum family property where the photographer built his first darkroom. For decades, the negatives caught the droppings of chickens and other creatures living in the pack house. Today they are in various states of deterioration. Some are broken and the emulsion is peeling on others, but the hundreds of vibrant personalities in the photographs prevail, engaging our emotions, intellect and imagination.”
— From “A Penny Picture Photographer in the American South” by Sarah Stackein the New York Times (Aug. 27, 2013)
In 1978, Richard Maschal of the Charlotte Observer visited Durham to cover the American Dance Festival. In a class of leotard-clad students, he recalled later, “One stood out. She had a beautiful face, the image, I immediately thought, of a Renaissance madonna….We sat on a bench, and I asked her name. ‘Madonna,’ she replied…. She seemed remarkably self-possessed for a teenager and incredibly self-absorbed….
“She [said] she found the styles of dress in Durham stodgy and conservative. She had a rather low opinion, too of the clubs and other sources of entertainment….”
Could Madonna have found Durham so boring that she would choose Charlotte over the Triangle for her first-ever tour stop in the Carolinas? Surely not!
100 years ago today: James B. Duke’s Southern Power Co., forerunner of Duke Power Co., brings electricity to Durham.
Among the bedazzled is a reporter for the Durham Recorder: “From the water driven generators on the Rocky Creek below Great Falls, S.C., the mysterious energy flashed over the lines or tower to tower, over hill and valley, through the fields of ripening corn and the forest in which the leaves are turning red and gold into the sub-station located on the hill just beyond the Pearl Cotton Mill.”
The 175 miles from Rocky Creek to Durham is touted as the longest distance over which electric power has ever been transmitted.
“[A] test has been done by Mel Gray, who teaches economics at the University of St. Thomas, and the results cast doubt on the idea that a flourishing artistic environment will cause economic growth….
“Gray told me, ‘I spent a sabbatical in North Carolina, and both Raleigh and Durham have established these Offices of Creativity, and they’re all doing this without a huge amount [of], if any, evidence that it makes that big a difference.’ ”
— From “The Fall of the Creative Class” by Frank Bures in Thirty Two Magazine
“[‘Laugh-In’ guest] Sammy Davis Jr., decked out in an oversized judicial wig and robe, introduced a courtroom sketch by strutting across the stage on his Cuban heels, waving his arms and chanting, ‘Here come de judge! Here come de judge! Here come de judge!’ — a line popularized by [Durham-born] black comedian Dewey ‘Pigmeat’ Markham….
” ‘Here come de judge!’ not only achieved a nationwide circulation exceeding Markham’s wildest dreams, but also earned a niche in the glossary of show-biz phraseology….
“Markham had spent decades on the vaudeville ‘Chitlin Circuit’ along with such greats as Moms Mabley and Mantan Moreland, occasionally heading downtown to perform before an integrated audience at Minsky’s Burlesque…. Only in the 1960s did he start showing up with any frequency on ‘mainstream’ television, and only during a one-year ‘Laugh-In’ gig did he ever appear as a TV-series regular.”
— From “From Beautiful Downtown Burbank: A Critical History of ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,’ 1968-1973″ by Hal Erickson (2000)
A second “Laugh-In” catchphrase, “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls,” also originated with Markham. He died in 1981 at age 77.
“We had played a big dance in a tobacco warehouse, and afterwards a friend of mine, an executive in the North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company [treasurer Edward Merrick], threw a party for us [at the N.C. Mutual Building in Durham].
“I was playing piano when another one of our friends had some trouble with two chicks. To pacify them, I composed this there and then, with one chick standing on each side of the piano.”
— Duke Ellington, as quoted by Stanley Dance in his liner notes to “The Ellington Era, 1927-1940, Vol. 2″
According to jazzstandards.com, ” ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ enjoyed a wave of popularity in the 1930s…. [It] was the theme song for no less than nine radio shows.”
Pictured: celluloid watch fob with image of N.C. Mutual Building.